HC Deb 24 August 1893 vol 16 cc1055-67

rose to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to withhold Her assent from the first of the detailed Schemes appended to the Scotch Code of Regulations for Evening Continuation Schools (1893). He said, that this was a matter of such great importance to the cause of higher education in Scotland, that it was absolutely necessary that the House should be invited to pass judgment upon it. He did not object to the principle of the scheme. He did not object to any part of the population being taught the duties of citizenship; but he did object to the way in which the scheme was drawn up, believing that it opened up sources of the greatest danger to the system of education in Scotland. If the duties of citizenship were taught under a well-considered scheme there could be no possible objection to it; hut he was afraid that one of the results of the scheme of the Education Department would be to lead to a great number of educational appointments being made, not for educational proficiency, but rather for political opinion. He could not see how it was possible to prevent any teacher who might be appointed to carry on the evening continuation school from teaching not only the facts about voluntary schools, but going further, and teaching whatever theories they might hold on the benefits or otherwise of the voluntary system. It would also be possible for the teachers to teach the scholars their own particular theories about land legislation. How could they expect that in all the schools the same theories, whether they were right or wrong, would be taught? There was the question of the appointment of Justices, and the question of public-houses and licences, on which there was the widest possible difference of opinion. Even if the teaching under the Code was going to be limited entirely to the facts of the case, he did not believe that they would get all teachers in the whole Kingdom to teach the facts of licensing and public-houses in precisely the same way. On page 18 were found such subjects as the composition of the House of Lords. At this time, especially, it seemed to him hardly probable that they would get all their teachers in their continuation schools to agree as to what should be done as to the powers of the House of Lords. Then, under the working of the Parliamentary system, they had such subjects as the rights of majorities and minorities. This was just the time when this was a question that no man could lecture or teach upon without showing some Party spirit. Coming to the question of Trades Unions, their history and work, and Co-operative Societies, their work and production, he thought it was wise that their children should be taught what was the history and the work actually done, and what was the power of Trades Unions. But if the teachers wore to have the power to impress upon their students that every single one of them ought to enter a Trades Union, and that it was the duty of a citizen to enter a Trades Union, then he thought a very great danger was opened up, and that this Code, instead of being what he thought it might be, a substantial advantage to the people of Scot-laud, would be a very great disadvantage, and would do great harm to the cause of education. With regard to the question of co-operation, he had received a large number of hysterical telegrams upon the Motion he had put down for to-night. His view on the question was that there was no harm in children being taught what Co-operative Societies were, and what their objects were; but he objected to these schools being made, as it were, a sort of cheap advertisement for Co-operative Stores against retail traders. It seemed absurd to allow a teacher to enforce on his pupils that it was the duty of every citizen of the Empire to join a Co-operative Society. If it was amended in that spirit, ho thought it would be of great service to education in Scotland; but he could not admit for a moment that there was any reason why Co-operative Societies or Trades Unions should be laid before the people of the country as things which it was the duty of all citizens to join. He submitted that under this Code it was perfectly possible for teachers to take that view of the matter. If the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, when he drew up the Code, was that only facts and not matters of opinion should be taught, he must see, on further consideration of the Code, that his intention had not been altogether carried out. If his object was to teach facts, and not to allow opinions to be scattered broadcast over the country, he had not attained it; and if his object was to allow opinions to be scattered broadcast over the country, then, for that reason alone, the Code most certainly deserved to be condemned. In the first issue of The Labour Gazette one of its objects were stated to be to Provide a sound basis for the formation of opinion, but not to supply opinions. This Code not only provided a sound basis for the formation of opinions, but, more than that, it bristled with temptations to the teachers to supply opinions to their students. That was the point he wished to attack in this Code; and in making a protest against this part of the Code, at all events, he thought he had a right to demand the support of hon. Members in every part of the House. This was in no sense a Party question, for even if political opinions were to be taught by the teachers in Scotland he did not think it would make any difference whatsoever in the balance of Parties in that House; and it was not because he thought there was any danger of political doctrines with which he did not agree being spread about that he objected to the Code, but because he thought all Parties ought to combine against putting in force in Scotland a Code which, whilst it was bound to be of the greatest service if it was well-considered, nevertheless, under the present conditions, and as it stood, was in his belief calculated to be a source of the very greatest danger. He begged to move his Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty praying Her to withhold Her assent from the first of the detailed Schemes appended to the Scotch Code of Regulations for Evening Continuation Schools (1893)."—(Mr. W. Whitelaw.)


I think the House will probably wish that an answer should be given at the very earliest moment to the Resolution which the hon. Member has brought forward. The hon. Member has practically started three questions: First, in the evening schools, ought the scholars to receive instruction on the conditions of the life of our people and on the duties of citizens? secondly, is the detailed scheme helpful or hurtful towards this object? and, thirdly, ought there to be any mention in that scheme of co-operation? Generally speaking, it is considered that Scotland is more go-ahead than England in matters of education. Rightly or wrongly, it is so considered; and it is certainly a curious thing that the English Code, containing exactly the same principles as those contained in this Scotch Supplementary Code, has already passed through the ordeal of this House without any comment or opposition, and has become the law of the land. Now, Sir, in the first place, I say most emphatically that in these continuation schools the scholars should be taught their duties as citizens. They are youths on the threshold of life, or men of mature age, because I am glad to say that there is no limitation in the age of the scholars taught in these schools. It is right that these people should be taught subjects in which they can take a manly interest; and the very last subject which I would exclude would be the municipal, national, and social institutions under which we all live and do our work in this world. If people do not learn these things properly—and I am quite certain that the institutions under which we live can only be properly learned if they are taught tolerably early in life, and taught systematically—if they do not learn these things properly they will mislearn them. It is very much better they should be taught these things on a system than that they should pick them up piecemeal from Party newspapers and leaflets on whichever side those Party newspapers are written, and I am quite certain good teachers can make these subjects both intelligible and palatable. Really if you keep out these manly questions which concern the real life of a citizen you come to this: that they are only to learn such stories in England, how Alfred burnt the cakes, and in Scotland, how Bruce watched the spider. That is a very insufficient pabulum on which to bring up people. Then objection is taken because women come to these schools. For my part, in these days, when women take so active a part in politics on both sides, I am glad that they come to these schools, and there is as much reason that they should be informed as men on matters in which it is plain that they take a great interest, and which they are thoroughly qualified to understand. The next question is, if the duties of a citizen are to be taught in our public schools in Scotland as they are taught in England—and I would not have Scotland behind England in this matter—is this detailed Code the proper means for teaching them? I should just like any hon. Member of this House to try to draw up, in the space of five pages, a bettor system of suggestions to teachers how to teach these questions. This is an extremely useful paper. The real difficulty to a teacher is not to discourse on subjects, but to know the subjects on which he discourses. I appeal to hon. Members here, when they have a speech to make, whether the real difficulty in making that speech is not to find the words, but to supply the heads of the subjects on which you are to discourse? We give the teachers the heads, and in my opinion there is no serious objection which can be taken to these heads which we have proposed. The hon. Member says the teachers are going to talk about School Boards and School Managers, and that they may give their own opinion about voluntary education and the religious difficulty. The hon. Member, as a Scotch Member, ought to know that there is a School Board in every single parish in Scotland, and there is no religious difficulty in Scotland. The School Board is just as much an institution in Scotland as the Parochial Board or Commissioners of Supply, and people ought to know what a School Board is. The hon. Member talks of the powers of the House of Lords, and says that political instruction may be given by the teachers upon that question. Why, Sir, if you are so careful of the political morals of the people of this country that you will not even mention the House of Lords historically and constitutionally, I say this is not a free country at all, and our education is not adapted to a free country. For my own part, I believe that this sketch of the civic life and civic duties will give just as much assistance to teachers in teaching as is given to them by other schemes to which the hon. Member does not object, and which instruct the teachers in natural science. Then we come to the question at the root of this discussion, and without which we should have no discussion at all at this time of the night—namely, the subject of co-operation. It is said that no encouragement should be given to the system of cooperation in schools which are supported by the nation; no assistance to cooperation and no assistance to the question of Trades Unionism. I will just read the passage on which the contention of the hon. Member rests. Associations of Workers:—

  1. "(1) Trade Unions, their history and work. Labour disputes and strikes. Arbitration and conciliation.
  2. "(2) Co-operative Societies; their work in distribution and production.
  3. "(3) Friendly Societies. Training in habits of industry; thrift and self-help. Value of the work of voluntary associations in the education of the adult citizen."
Now, Sir, my answer to the charge of the hon. Member lies in that passage. Is it, or is it not, the opinion of hon. Members that something should be learned by Scotchmen, as it will be learned by Englishmen, about Trade Societies, about Friendly Societies, and about Cooperative Associations? I can only say, looking back at my own education, that I know nothing so valuable in it as the fact that when I was a young fellow I got a very clear explanation about the financial system of this great country from one who knew it very well, and my belief is that there is no method of really understanding the essence of these great questions except by being told what are the essential features of these great questions early in life, by people who are anxious to instruct you. The individual employers of labour may think that their interests may suffer by instruction being given about Trades Unions. Individual speculators in building land may think they might suffer by Building Societies. Insurance Companies may think they may suffer by Friendly Societies, and in the same way, no doubt, manufacturers may think they may suffer by co-operative manufacturers, and traders may think they may suffer by co-operative distribution. If we strike out one of these topics, we must strike out all, and we must attempt to give a picture of what interests the great masses of our fellow-countrymen and the circumstances under which they live, leaving out such important things as all the methods by which the working classes can combine to protect themselves and better their own circumstances. No, Sir; no harm and no injustice can come from teaching people to understand these things. Harm and injustice come from ignorance and dulness, and not from light and understanding. I must say I believe those people who think they suffer from Trades Unions and from productive Associations are very much mistaken if they think, in the long run, they will suffer more by people understanding the real story. If there is any country in which Cooperative Societies and Trades Unions are to be ignored—for I understand the hon. Member has an equal objection to either Co-operative Societies or Trades Unions being regarded as institutions of the country which may be mentioned above your breath—[Mr. W. WHITE-LAW: No, no!] Well, he spoke so. [Cries of "No!"] If there is any country in which these matters cannot be ignored it is in Scotland. Now, it is not my business to praise or to recommend at this moment either Trades Unions or Cooperative Societies; but I say that both the one and the other are solid facts of Scotch life which every Scotchman ought thoroughly to understand. Parliament has legislated over and over again for a great many years past in order to enable both the one and the other class of this society to work without the trammels which formerly besot it; and it will, indeed, be very strong thing if now we say that they are institutions of such a class that nothing is to be mentioned of them in a course of education the object of which is to enable mature citizens to understand the circumstances in which they live; and, for my own part, I can see no more reason against explaining what co-operation is than, in a State-assisted College, of explaining what banking is. I remember in the old days in this House hearing Mr. Bright arguing in favour of an extension of the franchise, with the assent of all parties, on account of the admirable self-reliance of the Rochdale Pioneers. Are we seriously, in the same walls which heard Mr. Bright, going to pass a Resolution which states that to teach our young citizens what the Rochdale Pioneers are is an undertaking which Parliament will not consent to sanction? All we do is to explain what co-operation is. That is all we do, and it is all that those interested in co-operation ask. I have got before me a paper which has been circulated by the Co-operative Union, and in that they say clearly— We do not ask for co-operative teaching in the evening schools, that is in the sense of recommending students to become co-operators, but only so far as to show these students of citizenship what are the facts actually in existence around them. That is what they ask, and that is what we teach. The School Boards are not obliged to give instruction in the duties of a citizen; they are not obliged to give instruction in co-operation; but if they give either one or the other they must give it in a fair and reasonable spirit. It it quite true that a stupid teacher might, if he was permitted by a School Board, use this detailed scheme of the duties of a citizen to enforce his own views about politics, just as he might use, if he was stupid enough, historical literature to enforce those same views, just as he might, if he was ill-advised enough, use the opportunities of religious instruction to enforce his own denominational creed. But, Sir, we trust the School Boards, and if the School Boards do not do their duty it will be our business to look after them. There is enough common sense in our people to render all such fears as these illusory; and if the result is that teachers in teaching this Code of the duties of a citizen teach their own Party politics, all I can say is we shall withdraw it. What is the text book of the duties of a citizen? It is written by an hon. Gentleman in this House—I will not give his name—who holds diametrically opposite views to myself in politics. I have read every single word of that text book, and there is not a single word of it I would not willingly have taught in any school in England or Scotland. But when you come to the question of teaching our citizens the main outlines of English and Scotch history and political institutions, on both sides of the House I venture to say all are patriots before they are Party politicians; and in the same way, if in teaching what co-operation is a teacher makes himself an advertiser of Co-operative Stores and an adversary of the retail traders, all I can say is we should not only do what the hon. Gentleman asks and withdraw the detailed scheme, but we should forbid this teaching of the duty of citizens which would have been so misused being one of those subjects for which any grant might be given at all. But to say that such a province of human life and human interest as the association of working men to promote that which they believe to be the welfare of their class is one outside the pale of what ought to be explained to the citizens of this country is a proposition to which I, for my own part, will never consent, whether you look at it either from the point of view of private justice or public expediency.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

I think that this new development of the Education Code is extremely deplorable, and nothing that has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman—whom I had always regarded hitherto as an advocate of liberal education—has at all changed my views. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that all the public virtues which we are so ready to recognise in his public career have been derived from some early training in the knowledge of the finances of this dountry. I do not know that finance has ever been a matter in which the right hon. Gentleman has shown any special ability or great interest in. The right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished scholar. He was a distinguished scholar in a great school, and subsequently a distinguished scholar in a great University. I will undertake to say that neither in the curriculum of the great school nor the great University was any one of these subjects taught which he now thinks it absolutely necessary to cram down the throats of the persons who attend the continuation schools. The right hon. Gentleman has entirely mistaken the point of the objection taken by my hon. Friend behind me. He has no objection to co-operation as such; he has no special affection for retail trade as such; he neither objects to Trades Unions, nor does he wish, so far as education is concerned, to start a propaganda in their favour. What he objects to is starting controversial subjects as subject-matters of education. I do really think that no human being with the slightest spark of humour could have conceived such a scheme as this. The object of the teacher, I read— Should be to proceed from the known and the familiar, such as the policeman and the ratepayer, to the more interesting facts of English history. Do not let us begin English history with the policeman. It is a grotesque way of introducing people to a knowledge of the institutions of their country. I cannot conceive how this Code which is common to England and Scotland could have passed this House, so far as England is concerned; and I am glad that, at all events, a Scotch Member was found, even at the last moment, to protest against its being dragged into the educational system of our country. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that Scotland has always been ahead of England, and he does not wish it to lag behind England in adopting this Code. Let me tell him that nothing could be more humiliating than to be dragged up to England if this is to be the result. If this is the result, let us stick to our system. [A laugh.] However it may excite the merriment of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, it has, at all events, produced no inconsiderable results in the history of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman told us he never would be a party to excluding from school teachers the power of dealing with such important matters as Trades Unions or co-operation. But, Sir, you cannot help these matters being treated controversially. You can only profit by such teaching if you can secure that the schoolmaster takes an external and detached view of these subjects, and as many schoolmasters are interested in co-operation they must take a view in favour of that form of trading, and they cannot be expected to take an absolutely impartial view of the matter. I think the Code altogether degrades education to a purely utilitarian level, and even that utilitarian level does not give an idea of the depth to which we should sink if such controversial matter were to be included. If controversial matter were once admitted, the whole subject of continuation schools would become a matter of Party controversy; worse than that, you would choose your schoolmaster, not because he knew literature, history, or science, but because he either opposed or believed in Trades Unions and co-operation. If you once do that the whole idea of education will be absolutely ruined, and you may as well throw up your continuation schools altogether. I think this is a deplorable and even ludicrous departure, and I hope the Government will reconsider the position, and that next year, when the Code comes before us, this melancholy addition to it will be omitted.


As I have some responsibility in the drawing of this Schedule in connection with the English Code, I should like to say one or two words with reference to the strong expressions used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Almost in his very first sentence he said that the Secretary for Scotland wanted to cram down the throats of the children this syllabus. We do not desire to cram anything down their throats. The teacher will not be asked to teach anything unless the School Board or the management of the school are satisfied that it is a useful subject, and that the teachers are competent to give instruction in it. The right hon. Gentleman says that the syllabus is full of controversial subjects. There are very few subjects in education which are not controversial after we get beyond the mere elementary subjects. How are we going to teach history without raising controversy?


said, that history was not connected with the current Party politics of the day. By controversy he did not mean doubt. There were great doubts about the exact truth of early Roman history; but that did not enter into the ordinary controversial matters of the day.


How can you teach the history of the last three centuries, as we wish to teach it, without constantly touching some of what are the most bitter and difficult controversies unless we trust the teachers in the elementary schools, just as we trust our Professors in the Universities? Unless the teachers can be trusted to teach those subjects properly, they must be looked upon in a very different light to that in which I look upon them. I cannot join with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that there is anything ludicrous in introducing the subject of the duties of citizenship. It is a perfectly voluntary subject, with which managers and teachers are perfectly capable of dealing. An authority which the right hon. Gentleman respects, Professor Seeley, has said, again and again, that in his opinion this very subject is one which ought to be taught to young people from the ages of Hand 15 onwards in our schools, and even in Universities.


What subject is that?


This very subject.




This very subject of the rights and duties of citizens. I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that it is ludicrous to teach that.


I said syllabus.


The right hon. Gentleman must know that it is impossible to teach the subject without such a syllabus. I venture to say that nine-tenths of the syllabus contains uncoutroversial matters, which any reasonable teacher can teach without any danger of controversy whatever. I would further say that any sensible teacher who can teach history reasonably and well can also give instruction on the three subjects here specially referred to. When the representatives of the Trades Congress and Co-operative Union waited on me and asked that these subjects should be introduced, it was testimony to the fact that they were anxious their children should be brought up with knowledge which would be useful and serviceable to them as citizens.

MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

said, the speech of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite showed that the Scottish Tories were the worst of all Tories, as no English Tory had been found to take such an obscurant view. The position adopted by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen was the result of pure ignorance of the nature of the instruction given in the elementary schools. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Motion admitted that, at all events, it was proper that children in the continuation schools should he taught the facts with regard to Co-operation and Trades Unions; that was all that they could be taught under the Code. The Inspector who gave the marks on which the grants were based did so not because of the opinions of the scholars upon the Land Question or theories about Cooperation, but because of solid information acquired.

SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

desired to say that this matter had not escaped the notice of English educationists, and, if these subjects were included in next year's Code, they would probably have to take objection.

Question put, and negatived.